TOPEKA, Kan. (BP)–Kansas failed to make the list of states that voted on marriage amendments last year, but it could be the first to do so this year if supporters there succeed in placing one on the April ballot.
Kansas is one of at least a dozen states where legislatures are expected to debate a marriage amendment this year, although many of those states won’t place the amendment before voters until 2006, when races for U.S. Congress also will take place. But supporters in Kansas want to see the amendment placed on the April ballot — a move that would do much to de-politicize the issue. A statewide election for city and school board offices already is scheduled for April 5.
The Kansas Senate is set to vote on the amendment Jan. 13.
“We really don’t want to play politics with it,” Terry Fox, a supporter of the amendment and pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Wichita, told Baptist Press. “There are some [politicians] that want to save it until 2006 and be able to use it against Democrats or liberals…. Therefore, as soon as it’s voted on we think it’s better for the people of Kansas.”
The amendment would ban both same-sex “marriage” and civil unions.
Legislators in at least eight other states have indicated they will push for a marriage amendment this year. Those states are Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas and Virginia. In addition, legislatures in Massachusetts, Tennessee and Wisconsin passed amendments last year and must pass them again this session before they can go to the voters in those states.
The state marriage amendment push gained momentum last year when 13 states — including 11 on Election Day — voted on and passed marriage amendments. While supporters of the amendments insisted they were reacting to court rulings — particularly one in Massachusetts that legalized same-sex “marriage” — critics charged that the amendments were nothing more than a ploy to help President Bush’s re-election.
Fox hopes an April vote will dispel such accusations. For it to make it to the ballot it must pass two-thirds of both the House and Senate.
“I’ve heard from liberals who do not support the marriage amendment at all who have said, ‘We do appreciate the fact that you’re going to do it early because that shows us it’s not a political issue for you,'” Fox said.
Ironically, politics was blamed last year when the Kansas amendment failed to make it on the ballot. In March 2004 an amendment passed in the House but failed in the Senate. Just over a month later, the opposite occurred — it passed in the Senate but failed in the House.
Frustrated with the turn of events, Fox and a group of pastors promised to work to defeat the legislators who had voted against the amendment. He says the campaign was successful.
“We elected 42 new legislators in the last election,” he said. “Many of them — if not most of them — were elected on this issue.”
Christians, Fox said, have played a key role. Some 300 believers — including 150 pastors — held a pro-amendment rally in Topeka Jan. 10.
“There’s been a lot of passion out there in getting this before the people,” he said. “We’ve just been overwhelmed by the response of the churches — really of all denominations.”
Fox said both the Senate president and the speaker of the House have indicated they have the votes for the amendment to pass.
“We’re very optimistic,” he said.
But even if it does pass, Fox said an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is still needed. Although a Kansas amendment would protect against rulings by the Kansas Supreme Court, it would be vulnerable in federal courts and in the U.S. Supreme Court. Nebraska’s marriage amendment is being challenged in federal court.
Fox sees the Kansas amendment as a “stepping stone” toward a U.S. constitutional amendment.
“Even though we may pass one in the state of Kansas, we really do fear that the judges on the national level and the [U.S.] Supreme Court will step in and try to override us,” Fox said. “Our concern is that if [an amendment] doesn’t pass on a national level, then they’ll come in and override what we’ve been able to accomplish in Kansas.”
For more information about the national debate over same-sex “marriage,” visit http://www.bpnews.net/samesexmarriage